Self Disclosure in Relationships: Dos and Don’ts

We need to pay attention to self disclosure in relationships. There are things you should say at the start of a relationship, and things you shouldn’t. What you tell a guy about yourself can make or break a relationship, especially in the early days.

Communication starts at hello, and while there are appropriate things to tell someone in the beginning, there are others that are only necessary further along the line.

If you have any skeletons in the closet, keep the closet door locked, or tape over your mouth, until he’s hooked and nothing you can tell him will make a difference. Being selective about what you reveal isn’t being dishonest – it’s the difference between confetti blowing in the wind, or tumbleweed as he bolts out of the door.

Here are a few dos and don’ts of self disclosure in relationships to help you navigate the dating path.

Self disclosure in relationships when your ex is a lunatic

DON’T tell him. Unless the new guy is a Marine, or a professional fighter and can hold his own, you’re going to frighten him off.

He will either run scared that he’s going to get caught in the crossfire and be the subject of a professional hitman, or he’s going to shrug his shoulders and walk away, because you seem like too much hassle.

If you do get serious, and the relationship has some longevity, then you can tell him, but until then keep it buttoned.

If you have health issues

DO tell him. This kind of self disclosure in relationships is very important. Maybe not on a first date because we all know they don’t always lead to second ones, but if do you move beyond the one-date wonder it is only fair, to both of you, to disclose it.

For instance, if you have a chronic pain condition, there might be times when you don’t feel up to going out, and if he doesn’t know about it he will assume (in the uncertainty of early-relationship angst) that you don’t like him and are just kicking him to the kerb.

And his reaction to the information will also reveal a lot about him, and whether he is someone who will, indeed, stick by you in sickness and in health.

If you’ve been treated badly in the past

DON’T tell him. The time for opening the ex-files will come later, but at the start of a relationship you are setting the bar for the rest of it. If he knows you are used to taking crap, he may assume that he can do the same. Telling him that you stayed with your abusive ex for five years will send out all the wrong signals, and could well become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you have children

DO tell him. Right at the start. This is self disclosure in relationships at it’s best. Children are a blessing, and if you are a mother you want someone who, while they will never love your children the way you do, will consider them a bonus and not excess baggage. Nobody is suggesting that he meets them that week, or that month, or even that year – that has to be done when the time is right, but if he recoils when he realises you are a mother then he’s never going to be family material, at least not for someone else’s family.

If you have been married more times that Elizabeth Taylor…

DON’T tell him. Maybe you are a serial bride, maybe you just really like the taste of wedding cake, or maybe you have been really unlucky and married really bad men, but to a newcomer nothing could be scarier. All he will see is a woman who will be dragging him around the jeweller’s shop on the second date, and practising her signature with his surname on the third.

If he asks you if you’ve been married, you can simply answer ‘yes’. If he wants to know how many times you can reply with something along the lines of ‘That’s a story for another day, but tell me about you’. Don’t lie, but don’t reveal all either.

Do you get the picture? I’m not advocating dishonesty, ever. It’s not even lying by omission. But if you want a relationship to progress then there are some things which are best left until later, and some things which need to be brought into the open at the start. Be careful, never tell an untruth because when you do come clean, if it is in direct contradiction to what you have already told him, he will think you are a liar and nothing kills a relationship quicker that mistrust.

As the old saying goes ‘If in doubt, don’t’.